July 28, 2020

An Open Letter to Anti-Mask Wearers from a Paediatric Nurse.

I write to you with nothing but peace.

This letter is not meant to blame, shame, or judge. None of that is my place.

I am here to remind you who we are fighting for. And what happens when force and bluster rally against light and kindness.

I am a paediatric nurse who usually works in a busy, high acuity ward. However, last week I was seconded for a week to swab children and parents in the hospital’s COVID-19 clinic.

It was here that I realised the extent of what our children have been asked to endure.

No one talks about the children. We are all so busy sulking over itchy masks that “take away our human rights” or the event that couldn’t go ahead as planned.

No one has stopped to look at what this virus is doing to our children.

There are babies being born who are missing out on key development, attachment, and visual stimulation due to mask wearing.

Did you know that we primitively talk higher and slower in order for our babies to follow along with our mouth movements? As their eyes develop, the centre of our faces is initially all they can make out.

And now we have taken that away from them.

How long will it be until they see and recognise a human face? What will this do to them in the long-term?

That’s up to us.

What about the runny-nosed toddlers enduring a swab every few weeks because they are toddlers and it’s winter and their bodies are prone to catching every cold under the winter sun in order to keep their bodies’ immune system strong?

Their parents grab their hand and lead them along the blue line for another invasive sweep and tickle by strange-looking humans in scary costumes. They sit on their dad’s lap and lock their mouths shut as we coax our way in. They bury their heads into their father’s chest as he bear-hugs them from behind while we rummage for boogies to test.

What about the children with masks so big they stab into their eyes. Or the child who has learnt to point to everything with his elbow instead of his finger?

What about the child in the tutu who leaves the clinic room distraught and says, “I’m so very cross, even at you mommy.”

They are the wide eyes blinking back tears, the sneezing wrinkled noses. The stoic faces desperately trying to keep their hands tucked away from using their natural reflex of grabbing the stick that threatens to hurt them. Because they know if they contaminate it, they have to go through it all over again.

Health care workers have been stripped of our raw, bare faces to connect with. All we have is our eyes, tone of voice, and body language to communicate our intentions with these little, innocent souls. Get down on their level. Play with them. Ask them questions. You already know all of this, but now more than ever we need to use every love language in our tool kit to help our children feel safe.

And what about the parent who has to make another agonizing decision over whether to bring their child in for another swab. What about the time it takes them to prepare their child, allow them to go through the trauma of swabs tickling the backs of their throats, and then keep them locked indoors for days until the text comes through.

Or the parents who have no choice but to take their asymptomatic child for a swab because the childcare centre won’t have them back until they prove a negative result.

What about the parents who have lost their jobs and are so filled with anxiety they cannot see past survival mode. They don’t know that their child understands and feels the extent of that trauma, too.

None of this will stop until we come together.

I want to remind you of the children’s story of the quarrel between the North Wind and the Sun over who was stronger.

They both had their strategies of how they could strip a traveller of his cloak. The North Wind blew and raged a storm with all his might. The more he tore angrily in vain at the traveller, the tighter the traveller wrapped his cloak around him.

The Sun, on the other hand, shone gently and brightly. As the Sun’s rays grew warmer, the traveller himself decided to take his cloak off.

We can yell and defy the rules.

We can whip up words of legislation out of a quick Google search to protect ourselves.

We can walk where we shouldn’t and strip off our masks in public places.

We can call it a conspiracy. We can eye roll and argue “face masks do nothing anyway.”

We can force our so-called human rights with all our strength and might.

And COVID-19 will continue to wrap itself tightly around us.

Or we can come together in unity.

We can love on each other so much that we stay home.

We can wear our masks when we need to go out, out of love.

We can help each other where we can and shine a little light on these tough situations.

And maybe—just maybe—COVID-19 will strip itself away from us.

I know you’re scared and you want your freedom back. But we do not grow taller by cutting off the heads of others.

Yes, this situation is devastating. No one wants to be here again. Our children don’t want to grow up believing having sticks poked up their nose every time they are a little out of sorts is normal.

We always have a choice. Every decision we make comes from two places.

We choose from love.

Or we choose from fear.

Our children are making sacrifices every day to help stop the spread. I have seen it, and I have been part of it.

Our healthcare workers are sweating in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) all day to keep us protected.

Please recognise childrens’ experiences of this pandemic. Please advocate for their mental health.

Please honour and respect the work these health care workers, police forces, and essential workers are doing to keep us protected.

And please, do your part.


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